Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Limbe, Cameroon

Map picture

Yesterday was our second stop in Cameroon. It was only a half day visit so that our ship could depart early, as I will explain later. Once again our ship had to anchor over a mile offshore because of the shallow waters, and those same waters contributed to the large swells and choppy water we encountered on departure. It is amazing to me how well the crew manages to assist us in boarding the little Zodiacs as the bounce and bob in the roiling water.

Anyway our morning had three planned activities. First we visited the Limbe Botanic Gardens. Second we visited the Limbe Wildlife Center, and thirdly we returned to the large amphitheater at the Botanic Gardens for an absolutely wonderful cultural presentation from various groups who had traveled from all over Cameroon.

The Botanic Gardens were both interesting and sad. It was clear that at one time, they must have been an absolute treasure, and in fact at one time it was said to be one of the most important tropical botanic gardens in the world. The Gardens were created by the Germans during the colonial period. In 1920, the British took over responsibility under the direction of the Royal Botanic Gardens. The British departed in 1932, and left the management of the gardens to Cameroonian personnel, until when in 1958, Cameroon obtained independence at which time, the Government took responsibility. Unfortunately, it is clear that they lacked the skill and knowledge to maintain them, and so today most of the Garden is in sad shape. Besides a few good flower pictures, I was fortunate enough with the help of the ship’s photographer to find a praying mantis, and we both got some very good pictures for our albums.

Our next stop was at the Limbe Wildlife Center. The Center is a collaborative effort between the Government and the Pandrillus Foundation whose primary goal is to save Cameroon’s unique primate wildlife that is threatened by illegal hunting and the illegal pet trade. The animals in the Center are all orphans who were torn apart from their families as a result of the “bush meat” trade or the illegal capture of their family members. At present, it is home to 15 different species of primates, including the beautiful mountain Gorilla and the Cross River Gorilla. They also house Chimpanzees, Mandrills, Baboons and the beautiful and strange Drills. It was not a large facility, however it was very interesting and again I did manage a few good photographs.

Lastly, we all returned to the Botanic Gardens where in the very back corner they have the remains of a wonderful amphitheater. The ship had arranged for beverage stands to be setup all around the stage perimeter and individual chairs had been brought in for us. In the bowl of the theater, there was not a breath of wind, and both Lisa and I had sweat literally rolling down our faces and filling our eyes, but that did not dampen our enthusiasm for what was to follow. There were five different groups from all over the country that had come together to present their performances. It reminded me if a gospel choir competition where each group was elaborately dressed in their own “uniforms,” and they hung nearby and watched the other groups performing as they awaited their turn on stage. In an hour long concert, the groups spurred each other on until by the end they were all wound up and putting on quite an after show as we departed the stadium. For the first time, I actually got some good video, and now my challenge is to see if I can figure out how to include that in our DVD’s.

Our time in Cameroon had come to an end, but sadly I wish I could have had more time to get to know the country. After our two day visit I really feel that I know little more about the country than the three specific places we visited. We never got to see one of their cities or to walk among the people. Yes, we saw the “forest” people, an old Garden and a Primate Rescue center, but that was about it. Alas, we had to leave early for our next port of Cotonou in Benin because of the pirate danger. It would appear to me that Nigeria must be the source of the risk, because our ship left as soon as we could all get back onboard and has been running at full speed ever since. We left heading almost due south, and during the night turned to our northwest towards Benin. This had the effect of putting us well off the normal sea lanes and far away from Nigeria. All the curtains and shades around the entire ship were closed to lower our “light” visibility, and I noticed that the fire hoses are deployed and ready for use on the outside decks. Fortunately there has been no incident, but I do praise Silversea for taking all precautions for our safety.

I am sorry that I have not had the time to upload any photographs from this second cruise, and I will not have time today – I do not think. Getting these last two blogs out is about at my limit because after today, our one day at sea, our last two days on this cruise will be 11 hour adventures each. We are both a little panicked about packing in time, so Lisa has already started and I will follow shortly.

Somehow I will try to sum up our final days in Benin and Togo, but most likely it will be when I get home.

I do hope everyone is well, and with any luck, we will return home on the 13th with our bags in tow.


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